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Exploring Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Series, Part Two: My Own Journey Here

It strikes me as so very surreal that my training in ketamine-assisted-therapy (KAT) instructs me to bring elements of spirituality into the office. "White coat shamanism", some have called it. I was was in training, I was thinking to myself,

"Wait, really? You WANT me to do this? I'm not going to get in trouble somehow?"

Aside from my own healing work, my journey had included a diverse education that prepared me for this experience. 

Ever since my undergraduate days, I had been exposed to, and soon began seeking out, alternate views to life and the cosmos. 

Whether they were silly stories and practices by more “primitive” cultures (as my own Christian upbringing implied) or whether they held the profound answers to the questions of existence, I didn’t care much at first.  It all simply fascinated me.

I explored religious anthropology college classes focused on Native American cultures, and did an interview for that class  with a Celtic shaman.  I learned from college friends about modern paganism and Wicca.  They invited me to join UConn’s PODS- the campus Pagan Organization for Diverse Spirituality, which I was even co-President of for one brief semester.  I read books.  So, so, so many books.  And when YouTube and podcasts were birthed, I watched and listened as well as read.  I attended weekend events with classes and ceremonies, and attended two sleep-away retreats on Shamanism.  What a rich, wild world there lay in the various realms of spirituality that humankind practiced!

But I had always been cautioned: Don’t tell.  Keep it hidden. 

My mother worried the most.  As a school teacher, she was well aware of how merciless public opinion can be.  Like therapists and clergy, teachers are held elevated on a pillar in the community, expected to be pure, and “good” examples of human virtue (all while getting paid peanuts for a job in education).  My mother had known peers who had “fallen from grace”.

“If they find out what you are doing, you will lose your job.  They will take your home.  They will take your children.  This happens, Briana.” 

And she wasn’t wrong.  

I knew friends that had wanted to set up a pagan church in their home, in a town in Connecticut.  (For those who don't know, pagans practice various indigenous nature-based faiths, usually of European origin, or as best a recreation as they can muster, since so many people were burned at the stake in the 15th-17th century by the Catholic church.) Not being residents of the town already, they were not permitted to speak out at the town meetings gathered to decide their fate.  They had to sit and listen while neighbors who had learned of their plans spoke openly about pagans kidnapping children and sacrificing them to dark gods. 

Yes.  People still believed these things then.  They still believe these things today.

In Nigeria, you will be killed if you are suspected of witchcraft.  People, even children, are beaten, or attacked with splashes of acid by their neighbors.  A psychotherapy colleague of my husband’s, learning about Accelerated Resolution Therapy from him, shared: 

“This is so effective.  I wish I could take this back to my home in Nigeria.  I wish they could have this.  But they would believe it is witchcraft and they would attack me.”

When humans do not understand something, they fear it.  Anger is an easier emotion to cope with than fear.  And so we attack what we fear, simply because we do not yet understand it.

When I was taught Brief, Solution-Oriented Trauma Resolution, I told my teacher “This is just like shamanic soul retrieval!  Except that instead of the shaman doing the work, we teach the client how to do it and journey with them to find their broken parts!”  She nodded.  She had been told the same thing by another shamanic healer who had been working as a physical therapist.

Psychotherapy, despite being stripped of some of its most potent medicines in Nixon’s scapegoating “War on Drugs”, was still bringing these healing techniques to people. 

We learned to strip away all that America was told to disapprove of, and brought what was left into modern medicine.  Diluted as it was, it could still heal.  Holotropic breathing techniques could now simulate psychedelic states.  Guided meditations and somatic body work brought therapist and client to walk side-by-side in shamanic journey work.     We even learned to scrub Zen Buddhism and make it palatable for western medicine in the form of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  Yoga was branded as a relaxing form of physical exercise.  

Up Next: Healing Warriors


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